Rooted in the concept of the collective, SP-1 continues a mode of thinking that has existed from the outset.
Founded in 2015, A-COLD-WALL* was conceived as a platform for direct communication with its audience, a project that sought to connect openly and intimately with the customer across a range of mediums. Clothing and product became the conduits through which this discussion was held, with visuals, music, text and exhibitions following, adding new dimension and texture to the conversation. As a result, the garments themselves were imbued with something beyond the material. Becoming channels of communication between maker and wearer, they would articulate the ideas, concerns and values shared by both.
Designer Samuel Ross’ early preoccupations centred on the British class system, mining his own lived experiences and reflecting on the narratives of his peers. Questions around aspiration and the subcultural significance of brand and logo became a talking point. The classifications, structures and literal architecture imposed upon the working class were themselves examined. How could preconceived notions ascribed to working class cultures be laid-bare and, crucially, subverted? A-COLD-WALL* became a vehicle for counter-narrative, turning rigid categories on their head.
Five years on, the brand enters a new phase. A natural evolution of both designer and concept have given birth to a matured and rationalised A-COLD-WALL*. The crucial discussion around class systems has been absorbed into the very DNA of the brand. Now it moves forwards. A consistent thread remains however: communication. A-COLD-WALL* continues to push for a non-passive relationship between itself and its wearer, one exemplified by the SP-1 project, launched in January 2020.
SP-1 represents communication in the new era. A-COLD-WALL* has always sort progression, not simply for its own sake, but in order to create real and measurable change across the industry. Individualism on either side is rejected and community is actively fostered. SP-1 lays out an alternative vision for the future relationship between luxury brand and consumer with a two-pronged programme: EXHIBITION and OPEN SOURCE HARDWARE.
Exhibition has long been a means to fuse A-COLD-WALL*’s multiple interests into a tangible, unified whole. With Autumn/Winter 2020 ushering in a more refined and sharply focused approach, the aim was to showcase one single item to be explored on a granular level: The M-65 Jacket.
A design borne of evolution and refinement through extreme testing, this American Army field jacket sought to resolve the multiple problems inherent in the models that preceded it (M-43 and M-51), from a lack of storage to poor insulation. First appearing in 1965, standard issue during the Vietnam War, it remains a remarkably rational design, one that answers questions rather than posing them. A high collar with concealed hood protected the neck and head, multiple easy-access pockets provided storage, a drawstring waist and storm flap helped to retain heat, while internal buttons were fitted to allow for a removable lining.
Morphing from conservative military staple to symbol of a freethinking countercultural movement, this timeless and ever-relevant piece would eventually become part of the mainstream menswear catalogue, reworked and reissued in untold iterations throughout the decades.
Anonymous and adaptable, a distinctly modern take on utilitarian outerwear, the M-65 was unburdened by sentimental ideas of designer or sole creator. The perfect case study for A-COLD-WALL* and its system-based design thinking, it became a framework SP-1. Seven pattern precise takes on the M-65 were created for the exhibition, all packable, all constructed locally.
Eschewing the closed-door nature of the fashion week system, A-COLD-WALL* reached out to its core audience to usher in the Autumn/Winter 2020 season. Members of the public were invited to apply for access to a London-based exhibition exploring the M-65 in both its deconstructed and reconstructed forms. In an increasingly disconnected world, the brand was adamant that the SP-1 M-65 event be a physical rather than digital exhibition, offering a more human and immersive encounter.
Each attendee gave up their time in exchange for a unique and instructive experience removed from the usual retail environment. Continuing in this vein, 75 jackets were given away to select members of the public, a gesture of gratitude to an audience who have remained engaged and active in on-going dialogue with the brand.
A-COLD-WALL* approached the M-65 exhibition as a device to illustrate both SP-1’s core values and the key notions behind the brand’s rebirth:
The Power of Material
The M-65 would be reworked in a range of nylon fabrics from specialist Italian mills including Olmetex and Limonta. The purpose? To demonstrate the ways in which luxury fabric can shape and even lead the narrative of the finished garment. Treatments and finishes allowed for oxidisation, water-resistance, transparency and photochromic colour change. Some fabrics were resin-coated to age and break down over time, while others took on the lightness of paper, instilling memory, subtly mutating and scarring with everyday use — the fabric itself becoming a diary of its wearer’s journey.
The Contemporisation of a Classic
The foundational garments of the male wardrobe have become flagship pieces for A-COLD-WALL* and its new direction. Their basic DNA has been examined and respected while value has been added through a series of modern updates, be it via material, hardware or subtle changes to fit or silhouette. These menswear standards will now meet the challenges of modern life. The M-65 will be viewed as a new formal layer. A carefully chosen colour palette, from black to bold orange, placing it seamlessly in both classic and casual wardrobes. Here, the functional becomes elegant and luxurious.
The Introduction of Data Exchange
Each of the 75 gifted jackets was presented with a booklet. Inside, illustrated blueprints reveal the very architecture of the M-65, accompanied by detail on fabric, colour, spec and build. Pulling back the curtain on the construction process, the public sharing of this deep dive document aimed to normalise the exchange of production information between brand and wearer. Making this data accessible to the owner will encourage a deeper understanding of the intricacies and mechanics behind its design. As a result, a stronger connection to, and appreciation for, the piece itself will develop. Here, A-COLD-WALL* reaffirms its shift towards a slower, more considered men’s wardrobe. Adding layers of value to a single garment aims to encourage long-term ownership and a more careful and questioning approach to consumption.
Open Source Hardware
Deepening the SP-1 experience, a further layer of participation has been plugged into the project in the form of Open Source Hardware — a radical expression of the brand’s outward-looking attitude. An online catalogue of buckles, adjusters, zip pullers, drawcords and stoppers are available to purchase in pack form. Fully branded with the classic A-COLD-WALL* bracket logo, available in the company’s trademark colour schemes, these components place brand intellectual property directly in the hands of the customer. This atypical approach to retail is an experiment in trust. Decisions as to how and where these pieces are applied rest entirely with the purchaser, the options truly endless. Here, the notion of brand as impassable gatekeeper makes way for a relationship based on openness and exchange.
Equally, sharing IP starts a process of recontextualising brand. Taking a piece of hardware and attaching it to an external item raises numerous questions. A logo is loaded with meaning, instantly understood, it carries with it the accumulation of history and message. Attached to a generic, unrelated item of clothing or accessory, a piece of furniture or a simple keychain, the wearer is asked to consider if meaning has now changed.
Similarly, how has the application of this branded hardware altered the object on to which it has been attached? How does the user feel about the logo now that they are in complete control of its placement? By sharing these pieces of IP, A-COLD-WALL* asks its audience to actively participate in an investigation, one which reimagines the logo as part of a wider analysis of the very concept of brand itself.
SP-2 — The Next Chapter
Using knowledge accrued from the SP-1 projects, SP-2 will launch a series of innovative and unexpected initiatives developing the same spirit of community and dialogue. Continuing to test the boundaries of the brand/consumer exchange, a dedicated programme of both online and offline experiences are currently in the works.